I'm A Mom Who Started Her Own Company. Here's Why I Want People To Stop Calling Me A 'Mompreneur'
Terms like "Boss Babe," "Girl Boss," and "Mompreneur" have become commonplace these days, and when I first started hearing them, I thought they were fun, colloquial, and empowering when used in the right setting. Lately, however, there has been something distinctly uncomfortable about the tag: It's that regardless of the setting I've been invited to or the talk I am giving, motherhood is included in the conversation.
While I don't mind talking about this—my business is, after all, aimed at providing a solution for modern motherhood—the issue arises when all anyone wants to hear about is my experience as a mother. I am ridiculously proud and fortunate to be a mother, and it's filled my life with so much purpose. But as a business owner, the fact that all anyone wants to talk about is that I'm a mom gets really frustrating.
Here's an example: I was recently asked to speak at a tech event. The event had attendees from across the startup world, and the topic was the intersection of raising finance and being a mother. I was stumped. To me, they were unrelated: How I raised finance as a startup founder had no bearing on being a mother…did it? More importantly, it felt wrong to be one of the only women in the room and speak to motherhood. I took a moment to sit with these thoughts and feelings before mindfully deciding to ask if I could be given another topic. I added, "Can you do something for me? Ask a man about being a father and raising capital for his startup." They agreed to, and it was a strange sort of victory—but I do have to point out that at no point did they call him a "Dadpreneur."
The trap of discussing motherhood and work-life balance.
I'm hardly the only woman who's experienced this. Margaret Gould Stewart, VP of product at Facebook, wrote an incredible article on the matter several years ago. She described in detail how Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, was being interviewed at a tech conference and the interviewer spent a large portion of the interview discussing motherhood, work-life balance, and parental leave policies at work.
This wouldn’t have caused an issue on its own, but the discussions were meant to be centered on innovation in tech. It's uncomfortable, and it's not fair—while of course the self-care rituals that keep me above water in balancing career and being a parent are important and I love to talk about them in the right context, men simply aren't asked these types of questions. As an aside, at the same conference, Jessica Alba was complimented on her bikini body. Yikes.
Changing language to change the numbers.
Of the 2018 Fortune 500 companies, new statistics released this week show that there are just 24 female CEOs, which is a 25 percent decline from last year. Of course, that’s not as a result of terms like mompreneur, but we must ask ourselves this question: Is it helping to change that number? Last year, female founders received just 2 percent of the venture money available to entrepreneurs last year. Two percent?! Last I checked, women made up 50 percent of the population. So again, while the reason for this huge disparity isn’t related to the word, it certainly isn’t assisting in a situation where the odds are already clearly so stacked against us.
My takeaway is that divisive as opposed to uniting terminology is dangerous. "Special" terminology has the effect of distinguishing women from men in business and, worse than that, mothers from other women. While we're working so hard to achieve equality in other areas, this is one area where we can’t afford to slack off in if women ever want to reach the same status as men in the workforce—we need to be more intentional.
What we all want is to recognize women for their contribution to business and for this to be empowering, not reductive. We want this in the hope that one day not only will such terms have been extinguished, but it wouldn’t occur to our children to use them. My hope for the future generation is that they believe that brilliant people who work hard achieve great things—and gender has nothing to do with it.
Do you agree that people should stop using the term "mompreneur"? Check out our recent podcast with Daily Harvest founder Rachel Drori where she discusses why she's not a fan of the label.
Michelle Kennedy is the CEO and co-founder of Peanut, an app to connect like-minded women who happen to be mothers, facilitating conversations women want and need to have. Launched in 2017, it has become a prominent voice for modern motherhood, garnering a community of over 300,000 women. Michelle started her career as an M&A lawyer at leading international law firm Mishcon de Reya. She later joined dating app Badoo, where she rose to the role of deputy CEO at the $100m revenue generative market leader. During her tenure at Badoo, Michelle was integral to the launch and was a board member of seminal millennial dating app Bumble. Michelle is also a mama to her 4-year-old peanut, Finlay.